Cash flows in for Oak Creek water

Town will be loaned $821,000 for improvements

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— Oak Creek has been chosen as one of two Colorado municipalities to participate in a pilot program that will loan the town more than $800,000 to improve its drinking water.

The town built its water treatment facility in the 1940s. The plant has undergone only minor upgrades in the interim six decades.

Oak Creek is right on the edge of meeting U.S. Environmental Protection Agency guidelines, water quality consultant John DeBoer said. However, the town's current facility will not be able to meet new regulations on the horizon designed to limit the amount of microbiological contaminants.

"There are substantial penalties for not meeting EPA standards," DeBoer said.

As participants in the Colorado Drinking Water Revolving Fund, the town of Oak Creek will receive $821,000 on a 20-year loan at 4 percent interest.

The Mustang Water Authority, serving the towns of Nucla and Naturita in Montrose County, were also chosen to participate in the program.

According to the EPA Web site, the EPA has two revolving fund programs : one to help pay for upgrades to drinking water plants and one to pay for wastewater treatment upgrades. The 1996 Safe Drinking Water Act Amendments created the drinking water revolving fund.

"The Water Quality Control division of the Colorado Department of Public Health searched out communities that needed assistance in upgrading their drinking water treatment facilities," DeBoer said.

The money should be used, he said, to not only improve the physical facility but also improve the technical and managerial aspects of the plant.

The town of Oak Creek applied to the state health department for the money, DeBoer said. Oak Creek was identified through surveys of its facilities and added to a short list of qualified Colorado municipalities.

The two municipalities were chosen because of their readiness to begin upgrading their water treatment plants, he said.

According to an Energy Impact Fund grant application completed by Mayor Cargo Rodeman and Town Clerk Nancy Crawford, Oak Creek plans to begin work as early as this summer.

The lenders will watch the town of Oak Creek and the Mustang Water Authority to determine the full parameters of the program, DeBoer said.

"They would like to contract a consulting firm and be able to assist any community in the future with this need," he said.

An $800,000 loan may seem insurmountable to a town of 850 people with an annual budget of less than $1 million.

But the town board hopes to offset the costs with several grants, including a $300,000 Energy Impact Grant the town plans to apply for in the next funding cycle.

The total cost of the project, according to the Energy Impact Fund grant application, is estimated at $1.5 million, including and in-kind land transfer of 4.2 acres already owned by the town.

In the 2003 budget, the town board set aside $250,000 in matching funds with plans to apply for grants to fund this project.

Worst-case scenario, the town will need to raise their water rates slightly, DeBoer said, "but residents should be pleased that they were chosen for this loan. It will be less expensive in the long run and the town is looking out for the health of the people."

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